The First Sunday in Advent
December 1, 2019
Isaiah’s Advent Gift of—
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“All I want is a little bit of peace!” Does that lament sound even vaguely familiar, my friends? Have you ever been in a situation that has been so tense and so uncertain that you were almost afraid of what was going to happen next? Have you ever been at a point in your life when there is so much turmoil and so much trouble that you wish you could just escape and find some peace? Ironically, this is the time of the year when many people often feel more pressure than peace. Between all the preparations that need to be made, all the obligations that need to be kept and all the expectations that we are striving to meet it is not very difficult at all to find ourselves saying— or at least thinking— “All I want is a little bit of peace— please!”
During the season of Advent this year we are going to be focusing our attention on the Old Testament reading of the day, the reading from the prophet Isaiah. In an effort to connect these four Sunday’s together we are going to follow a sermon series entitled: Isaiah’s Advent Gift of…. On each of the four Sundays we will look at a special “gift” that the prophet Isaiah brings to us during the season of Advent. As you may have already guessed today we are going to look at: Isaiah’s Advent Gift of— Peace!
Back in the days of the prophet Isaiah God’s people were not exactly experiencing an excessive amount of peace. On the political front the Assyrian Empire was looming over both Israel and Judah like a giant cobra ready to strike. On the religious front the unfaithfulness of God’s people to the covenant that the Lord had established with them brought warning after warning that God’s justice would soon rain down upon God’s people. And yet, in the midst of all that political unrest and in the midst of all that spiritual unfaithfulness the Lord God gives to his servant Isaiah a beautiful vision of— peace! As we study this vision let’s first of all look at the source of this wonderful peace. Isaiah writes, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many people will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
In order for us to grasp what the Lord is emphasizing here in our text we need to put ourselves into the sandals of God’s people at the time these words were originally written. The beloved city of Jerusalem sat majestically on top of the hill called Zion. The focal point of the entire city was the magnificent Temple of the Lord— the source of peace for God’s Old Testament children. Why? Why was the Temple of the LORD the source of peace? Think about it, my friends. The Temple of the LORD was the place where the sacrifices were made so that the sins of God’s people could be forgiven. The Temple of the LORD was the place where God’s Word was taught to God’s people. The Temple of the LORD was the place where the LORD Himself visibly dwelt among His people. Recall how the “Glory of the LORD” appeared between the cherubim on the cover of the Ark in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of the LORD.
If the Temple of the LORD in the beloved city of Jerusalem was the source of peace for God’s Old Testament people what is our source of peace today? Where do we— God’s children who are living “in the last days” as Isaiah says here in our text— where do we find our source of peace? There is only one place where we find an unending source of peace, my friends. It is right here— in the Christian church.
When Isaiah’s vision describes the “mountain of the LORD’s temple” as being “chief among the mountains,” when Isaiah’s vision describes the “mountain of the LORD’s temple” as being “raised above the hills” he is describing the preeminence that the Christian Church has “in the last days,” in the New Testament era. While there are many different kinds of “churches” in our world today and while there is an entire smorgasbord of religions being offered to the people of this world the Christian Church “ranks” far above them all! Why? Because like the Temple of the LORD in the Old Testament times in these “last days” only the Christian Church is able to serve as a source of true lasting peace! No other church and no other religion is “high” enough to rescue people from the tsunami of their sins.
What sets the Christian Church above all others? What places the Christian Church in the unique position of being the only source of peace? The answer is simple: God Himself has given to the Christian Church His precious Means of Grace— the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it comes to us in both Word and Sacrament. Through the message of the Gospel you hear the risen Christ Himself say to you, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you…If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven” (John 19:21, 23). In the Sacrament of Holy Communion you have an unending source of unparalleled peace. Here at the Lord’s Table you receive the very body and the very blood that was sacrificed on the cross (Pointing to the cross) so that you could be at peace with the God of heaven. Since the Christian Church is the only church that proclaims the sweet simple message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Christian Church is the only Church that has the privilege of serving as a source of peace for all the people of this earth.
Does the peace which God’s Church provides to you God’s people have any practical application in your daily life, my friends? It most certainly does! Look at the picture that Isaiah sees in verse four of our text, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Don’t lose sight of the impact which these words undoubtedly had on God’s people in the days of Isaiah. With the powerful Assyrian Empire looming on the northern horizon Isaiah’s promise of peace must have been extremely comforting for God’s people. But 2,700 years have gone by since Isaiah first wrote these words and as we look around in our world today there still is a tremendous need for peace! When and how will these words be fulfilled? There are three ways in which to answer that question.
First, the ultimate fulfillment of these words takes place each time one of God’s children is brought Home to heaven. Heaven is most assuredly a place of perfect peace! The peace of heaven will then become the peace of earth when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this world at the end of the age. That is the ultimate fulfillment of these words.
Secondly, the peace which Isaiah pictures here in our text, the peace that comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is a peace that you already possess, my friends. While I don’t know the specific details of your life the simple fact that we are all sinners living in a sinful world guarantees that we need peace! That’s why we come here to God’s house on a regular basis! That’s why we receive His holy Supper on a regular basis! That’s why we read and study our Bibles both here at church and at home. We need that constant assurance that no matter what we have done when we kneel at the foot of Jesus’ cross, ask Him to forgive us and hear Him say to us, “I already have! It is finished!” (John 19:30) We need the constant assurance that no matter what sins we have committed when we come at His altar to receive His true body and His true blood in His holy Supper we hear that blessed truth, “Depart in the peace of knowing that your sins are forgiven!”
The third point that cannot be overlooked here is that the peace which we will one day enjoy in heaven and the peace that we already enjoy with God right now is the peace that we are to share with each other. Sometimes even God’s people have disputes and disagreements. Sometimes even God’s people rise up against each other— not with swords and spears, but with angry words, sharp tongues and bitter remarks or with envy, jealousy and prejudice. Whether it’s here at church or in the privacy of your own homes the peace that we receive as a free gift from God is the peace that enables us to live in peace and harmony with each other.
“All I want is a little bit of peace.” If that lament sounds even vaguely familiar, my friends, I encourage you to remember Isaiah’s Advent Gift of Peace. Remember that through the Means of Grace God Himself has provided you with an unending source of unparalleled peace right here in His Church. Remember that the peace which the crucified and risen Christ (Pointing to the cross) has secured for you is not only a peace that you will enjoy in the perfection of heaven, but it is also a peace that you can both enjoy and share right now!
May God grant that Isaiah’s Advent gift of peace will always be yours.
To God be the glory!